I have a great niece. When she graduated from her masters program, the two of us flew to Paris for a celebratory vacation. I tell you, the best way to enjoy the museums of Paris is to go with a Forensic Archeologist. My niece planned what we did in Paris. My job was to get us there and get us a place to stay.
After a little sticker shock at the prices of hotel rooms, I decided to check out AirBnB. I have to say that it was sort of like internet dating. Yes, I did that at one time, with horrible results. After setting up my profile, I began to look through the listings. I had to quickly stop, and do some googling to learn about the arrondissements of Paris, to decide what part of the city I wanted us to stay. I settled on the 3rd arrondissement.
Back to Airbnb, I started looking at the apartments offered in that area. I had no idea what I was doing, but I mustered on. I rejected a few because they were offered by hipster looking young men. This is a prejudice I have gotten over since. Hipster looking young me have some great places. I found a place that sounded wonderful, offered by a hipster looking young woman. It was $118 USD per night., far less than the hotels. It as a five minute walk from the Louvre.
My niece and I had a wonderful time in Paris, and loved the little apartment.. Every morning we got up and cooked a great breakfast of fresh local foods, before heading out to tour the city. We usually ate lunch out. Dinner was either eaten out or we cooked something at the apartment. Doing that, really lowered the cost of the trip. I would put a link to the apartment here, but it is no longer offered on Airbnb.
When I began planning my post retirement travels a friend of a friend, Mike Elgan published a book, Gastronomad: The Art of Living Everywhere and Eating Everything. While it is an entertaining travel book, there is one small section which that really caught my attention.
You’ll still search the Airbnb site, but from an external search engine using something called a “site operator”—a command that works in search engines limiting the search to a single site. Just enter your own keywords, followed by the following (no spaces): site:airbnb.comMike Elgan
Using this I went into Google image search and typed in:
studio apartment site:airbnb.com.
Update: I tried doing this today, and found the search choked with airbnb.com press releases. I put in the operator -press to the search. Even with that even with that, the results were pretty bad. It brought up all sorts of photos that were not even of studio apartments. I guess it is because Airbnb is putting a lot of photos on there site that are unrelated to the rental listings.
This gave me a whole bunch of images of studio apartments all over the world. By scanning through them, I was just looking for something that looked nice. Then by clicking on the image I was able to visit the Airbnb page and see what part of the world the apartment is. This is a great way to find the little out of the way places where you can go and not be sandwiched in between packaged tour groups every time you go to the grocery store.
After 13 years of living in Honolulu, the last thing I want to do is live somewhere, where you have have to dodge Segway tours every day. Most of the places I have lived in over the past year, haven’t been places which I would have considered before they were surfaced for me by Airbnb. Once, Airbnb surfaced a town or small city, I would then search that area for an apartment, which was in my price range.
When you use this method, make sure you put in your dates. If you are a long term traveler like me, staying more than 30 days at a time, you can get some very nice discounts. I was pleasantly surprised to lean this by accident. Having the dates in only shows you the apartments that are available for the dates you need. It also doesn’t show you apartments, which the owner doesn’t alow long term stays.
When I had to slash my travel budget down to less than a quarter of what I had initially planned, I decided to head off to the cheapest place I had found with my original research; Ecuador. At first I was planning to go to the capital city of Quito. Luckily, I was listening to a travel podcast and heard a caller talk about living in Cuenca. The host of the podcast corrected his pronunciation, Quito. No, the caller explained, Cuenca is a smaller town to the south. He said that he preferred Cuenca, because Quito was 3 miles high and Cuenca was only 1.5 miles high.
That stopped me. Was I mixing the names of the towns up? I researched and found that I had meant to go to Cuenca, before mixing up the names. By the way the caller was wrong. The two cities are both about 1.7 miles high. When I started searching for an apartment, I was shocked at the prices. Living in Honolulu had not prepared me for finding whole apartments for less than $20 USD per night when you booked long term. I booked an apartment for 90 days at $12.75 USD per night.
I was pretty lucky to have found this place. The photos had been taken right after it was renovated, so it didn’t look quite as nice when I first walked in. Like internet dating, hero shots make things look good. After a while you don’t notice little things like wear and tear. It was a comfortable clean safe place right in the middle of Centro, an easy walk from everything I needed.
There were things that were bothersome, but I was expecting them, since I had carefully read all the reviews on Airbnb. That is some advise I found in Your Keys, Our Home: The Senior Nomads Incredible Airbnb Journey eBook, by Debbie and Michael Campbell. If you see something that you especially like in a listing, it doesn’t hurt to contact the host and ask if it is still there. Some of the older photos show computers. Few host provide computers any more, now that most everyone travels with their own devices.
I try to book my next home and all the travel arrangements 60 days ahead of time. So far I have found that it is cheaper to fly round trip from the USA for each of my trips rather than trying to fly between countries on one way tickets. This actually works out well. I am very lucky to have some friends who let me stay at their places when I am in the US, so that helps keep my cost down considerably. Before I get to their houses, I order anything I need for my next trip and have it delivered to their house. That way I can enjoy visiting with them, and not running around shopping too much.
When it was time for me to figure out where I wanted to go after my visa in Ecuador ran out, I returned to the list of places I made up before my finances tanked. I had noted a few places in San Miguel de Allende. Unfortunately San Miguel de Allende is very popular with American tourist, so the prices of those Airbnbs were beyond my budget.
This is when I learned another Airbnb trick. If you put in a town like San Miguel de Allende into the Airbnb search, then reduce the price range to what you can afford, Airbnb will show you the nearest places that fit your price, that are outside of the town. By doing this I found the town of Guanajuato, Mexico, which is about 50 miles from San Miguel de Allende.
I ran Guanajuato through my method of determining if a place suits me, as I descried in How I Pick a Temporary Home. This was early days, so I didn’t check out the temperatures well enough, so my first few weeks there were quite cold, as I didn’t get a place with a heater.
For $20.22 USD per night, I found a place, which was so pretty that I am constantly seeing it featured on other bloggers’ sites. It might not have had a heater, but the price included Rosa, the cleaning lady, who came every week. I hated leaving Mexico, but I had to go back to Honolulu for my yearly doctor’s appointments and to see my CPA, who is doing his part to try to dig me out of my financial problems. He was rather impressed about how I reacted to my reduced circumstances by dashing off to live in places I could afford.
After finishing up in Honolulu, I headed to the mainland to take care of more financial stuff, then down to Houston to visit my friend. That trip isn’t in my budget because it is payed for by my company, which while unprofitable, still covers my expenses doing business for it. I will blog about it when the legal issues are past. Hopefully, by that time the company will be showing a profit or have been closed down.
My next trip was to Eastern Europe. I had originally planned to go to Estonia. I had found a sweet Airbnb in Estonia that suited me. A woman who had gone to the same high school as me, but who I hadn’t known in school, invited me to look her up in Poland. I figured Estonia or Poland it didn’t matter, I had never been to either one. I found an Airbnb in Warsaw, close enough to where she lived to be convenient, but not so close that she would feel that I was encroaching on her life. So far it was the most expensive place I have rented, at $23.70 USD per night. And to think, I once thought that getting a Motel 6 for $40 USD per night was great.
This place was hosted by a hipster man, but he was just as sweet as could be. On the day I arrived he met me with the key and a bag of snacks. My stay in Warsaw was really very nice. I now consider the woman who had invited me to be a friend for life. We have so much in common. We were both moved to that small town in Texas where we didn’t ever feel at home. We both couldn’t wait to get out, and kept going. She married a Polish national and I married the sea.
While in Warsaw, I realized that summer was going to be a scorcher just about everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. I started looking for my next place to stay and found Medellin, Colombia. I didn’t follow my rules on picking a city, but the Airbnb is great! This place is exactly like in the photos. I am sitting at that desk right now working on this post. It works out to $17.08 USD per night.
In two weeks or so I will have to pull out my short list of apartments for Arequipa, Peru. I will be going there around the end of October. When I was checking for visa requirements, I found that Peru allows US citizens 183 day visas. Had been planning on 90 days there and 48 days in Merida, Mexico. Now I am going to stay in Peru for 138 days and save some money on flights. With the added time, it is very important that I find just the right apartment.
I have learned something about my personal requirements:
- I need to have a microwave
- I need a heater if the temps get low at night.
- I must have a proper desk, with a chair.
- I must have a coffee pot
- Enough room to walk around inside for exercise when I am feeling like a hermit.
Things I look for, which are not requirements, but will make me book faster.
- A good view, preferably a window seat or terrace.
- Big markets within one mile
- A cool old building
- Nearby parks
I have learned that in the low price point there are certain things that I can’t expect. These are things I will buy and leave be hind for the next person. They are listed in my budget under “shopping.”
- egg skillet
- Bath mat
- Wash cloths
- vegetable peeler
I can’t wait to pick out my next home. Airbnb is like candy store for me. Some day I might try some of the other renal sites, but right now, I am happy.